The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Leptin acts via lateral hypothalamic area neurotensin neurons to inhibit orexin neurons by multiple GABA-independent mechanisms.

PMID 25143620


The adipocyte-derived hormone leptin modulates neural systems appropriately for the status of body energy stores. Leptin inhibits lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) orexin (OX; also known as hypocretin)-producing neurons, which control feeding, activity, and energy expenditure, among other parameters. Our previous results suggest that GABAergic LHA leptin receptor (LepRb)-containing and neurotensin (Nts)-containing (LepRb(Nts)) neurons lie in close apposition with OX neurons and control Ox mRNA expression. Here, we show that, similar to leptin, activation of LHA Nts neurons by the excitatory hM3Dq DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drugs) hyperpolarizes membrane potential and suppresses action potential firing in OX neurons in mouse hypothalamic slices. Furthermore, ablation of LepRb from Nts neurons abrogated the leptin-mediated inhibition, demonstrating that LepRb(Nts) neurons mediate the inhibition of OX neurons by leptin. Leptin did not significantly enhance GABAA-mediated inhibitory synaptic transmission, and GABA receptor antagonists did not block leptin-mediated inhibition of OX neuron activity. Rather, leptin diminished the frequency of spontaneous EPSCs onto OX neurons. Furthermore, leptin indirectly activated an ATP-sensitive potassium (K(ATP)) channel in OX neurons, which was required for the hyperpolarization of OX neurons by leptin. Although Nts did not alter OX activity, galanin, which is coexpressed in LepRb(Nts) neurons, inhibited OX neurons, whereas the galanin receptor antagonist M40 (galanin-(1-12)-Pro3-(Ala-Leu)2-Ala amide) prevented the leptin-induced hyperpolarization of OX cells. These findings demonstrate that leptin indirectly inhibits OX neurons by acting on LHA LepRb(Nts) neurons to mediate two distinct GABA-independent mechanisms of inhibition: the presynaptic inhibition of excitatory neurotransmission and the opening of K(ATP) channels.